We coasted to a stop outside Carson’s house. I leaned forward, eager to see him. The front door swung open, and there he was, in all his wet-haired glory. He looked magnificent in just jeans and a plain shirt.
Scott cleared his throat. “Did you…did you take your meds yet?”
Distracted from my blatant ogling, I faced my brother. “Yeah, I took my first one today.”
“Do you feel the same?”
I’d taken the pill over an hour ago, and I wasn’t feeling any different. “Yeah.”
Scott dropped the conversation the moment Carson opened the back door. He slid in, dropping his bag on the seat beside him. Twisting around in my seat, I peeked over the headrest.
“Hey,” Carson said, grinning.
My smile spread. “Hey.”
A groan came from the driver. “This is going to suck.”
Carson and I grinned at each other.
“Not for me,” he said.
Things were sort of okay over the next week. There hadn’t been any more visits from Detective Ramirez, and my meetings with Mrs. Messer stopped since I began seeing Dr. O’Connell.
I kind of missed her and her glasses, though.
The pills seemed to be working faster than expected. No hallucinations or random notes. However, I did find my stash of legal notepad in the office at home while looking for some paper clips. Seeing the pad of paper kind of hit home for me. That night was bad, full of tears and frustration.
But even with the pills and how things had calmed down around me, there was this growing unrest within me, usually worse at night, when I lay awake, counting the neon-green stars to make sure there were still fifty-six on the ceiling. It was like a lull in the storm, right before chaos reigned supreme.
Each night, after practice, Carson came over to “watch TV” with Scott, which really was just a front to hang out with me without freaking my parents out. It seemed to be working, and those one to two hours a night had become the thing I looked forward to the most every day. We’d sit side by side on the couch, pretending to watch TV while Scott pretended that he wasn’t watching us like a hawk. Carson had gotten creative in ways to accidentally touch me, a brush of his hand or leg. By the time he left, I wanted to crawl in his lap and kiss him.
And he hadn’t tried to kiss me. We hadn’t even come close since the day he visited me after the accident. I had a feeling that he didn’t want to rush things because of everything that I’d been through, and I wasn’t offended by that.
Prom became everyone’s focus at school. Even Veronica and Candy had turned their slur campaigns toward their prom court competition instead of me. With each passing day, I faded into the background, and I loved it.
Del got to me after classes on Friday, while I switched out books, following up on the promise I hadn’t kept.
The shiner had faded to just a very faint blue under his eye, but he looked like crap. “We need to talk.”
I was so getting tired of hearing those words. Grabbing my trig book, I shoved it into my bag. “No, we don’t.” I spun around and headed toward the back entrance.
He was right beside me, dogged as ever. “People were talking in practice yesterday.”
I could only imagine about what. Pushing open the door, I took the pavilion steps two at a time. Scott would be waiting to take me home before heading back for practice.
“Don’t you even want to know?” he asked, anger sharpening his words.
He shot in front of me, blocking my path between two cars. “What is with you? You’re acting like we weren’t together for almost four years, Sammy. Four years and you can’t even give me the time of day?”
There was a good chance that the pills might be kicking in ahead of schedule, because I wasn’t angry. I wasn’t even sad. Looking up at him, I felt nothing but general disappointment. Maybe it wasn’t the pills—just a sign that I was moving on from this.
Kind of like how everyone seemed to be moving on from Cassie.
I shouldered my backpack and squinted. “I’m sorry. I know we spent a long time together—”
“But since you can’t remember it, you don’t care? Well, I do. I remember it and I care.”
“That’s not what I was going to say.” I sighed, glancing over his shoulder. If Scott caught Del blocking me like this, he’d end up with another black eye. “I know you care about that time, and believe it or not, so do I.”
“Good.” He sounded hopeful. “At least that’s a common ground.”
“Not in that way. I care about you, and maybe one day I’ll forgive you for those pictures, but even if I did, we aren’t getting back together.”
He reached for my hand, but I pulled away. Hurt flickered across his face, but behind that was stubbornness and something darker and stronger than I cared to see. At least I knew the pills didn’t totally squash my emotional compass.
“Can’t we just go somewhere and talk?”
My mouth dried. “You have practice.”
“Screw practice. Our relationship is more important than a damn practice.”
“I’m not more important. Baseball means a lot to you.”
“That’s not true.” He looked as if I’d hit him upside the head with a concrete block, as if he couldn’t believe I’d disagree. “We need to talk this out.”
Apprehension was growing rapidly, and it made me impatient to get away from him. “I need you to understand this, Del. We aren’t getting back together. Not now. Not a week from—”
“It’s true, then? What I heard in practice yesterday? That you’re going to prom with Carson?”
I wasn’t answering that question, because I knew it would be like opening Pandora’s box and letting out a slew of angry problems. So I stepped around him and picked up my pace. Just a few more rows of cars, and I’d be free of Del. Just a few more steps…
“Damn it, Sammy!”
The anger in his voice caused me to jump, but I didn’t look back. He’d turn my going to the dance with Carson into my choosing someone else over him. And Carson had nothing to do with Del. They weren’t even in the same league.
Why was Del so determined to patch things? Another mystery I couldn’t solve or even begin to understand. During lunch this past week, Veronica had been all but sitting in his lap. It was obvious she liked him and was more than willing to take their friendship to the next level. A much better choice than me for several reasons.